Bensbach Wildlife Lodge

Uepi is a small tropical island perched on the edge of the Marovo Lagoon, the longest lagoon in the world. This natural wonder is home to a complex and colorful array of terrestrial and marine habitats. The resort is relaxed and comfortable blending effortlessly the beauty and character of this authentic and stunning part of the Pacific. As you arrive at this remote, but accessible destination, the everyday demands of modern living slip away. There are four beach bungalows, two garden bungalows, two units and two guest rooms all generously spaced among vibrant tropical gardens. Each as ceiling fans, large screened in windows to catch the breeze, shaded verandahs, full bathrooms and coffee/tea making facilities. The deliciously healthy resort meals are based around fresh local seafood and organically grown fruits and vegetables, prepared by talented local chefs.



 

Uepi offers the unique opportunity to dive first-class sites that are only minutes away from the dive shop; conveniently located either off the edge of the island or just a short boat trip away. Diving is based on multi-level planning, beginning at 30 metres or less and ascending slowly throughout the dive, so Dive Computers are required. It is common for divers to stay in the water for an hour or so on each dive because the top 5-10 metres have endless species to discover, allowing a diver to get maximum value from each dive. Rarely will you view such diverse concentrations of marine-life in such a varied environment, ranging from lagoon coral gardens to vertical drop-offs into 2000 metres of ocean (The Slot), mostly within the confines of a three kilometre stretch of reef.

The same basic dive rate applies to shore dives, night dives and boat dives on Uepi Island sites (see excursion dives later). The majority of expense for diving at Uepi relates to the cost of maintaining the reef and environs, as well as providing dive guides and a dive facility in such an isolated area.

Because of the location of Uepi Island, waters may be very clear with visibility in excess of 30m or visibility may be less. Tidal current interchanging to & from the Marovo Lagoon and The Slot makes the deep water passage immediately adjacent to the resort a prime habitat for a colourful population of filter feeders such as corals & sponges as well as for reef-fish, sedentary animals and pelagics.

Our aim at Uepi is to provide the chance to enjoy the fabulous Marovo environment, in particular the marine environment. With that in mind our dive supervision is aimed at achieving this in a sustainable and safe manner. We certainly welcome divers of any background, certification and experience level who want to explore, discover and share a rich and diverse marine environment. We will do our best for you.

So all dives have a dive leader and a dive plan. Divers at the very least are expected to dive within their qualifications and experience. As we get to know individual divers we can relax and be suitably flexible about the dive plans, so to cater for the wide variety of divers we attract.

To help maximize divers enjoyment we try to have small groups of compatible divers. We appreciate that divers come a long way to dive with us so longish bottom times are the accepted norm, sometimes limited by other reasonable considerations.

Uepi is remote so a serious medical evacuation is at times a little complex and undoubtedly expensive.

Protection of the reefs is of paramount importance to us so there are a few commonsense restrictions in place, things like not over diving sites, total "no take", care with fins.

From Honiara, visitors to Uepi travel by light plane (a 60 minute flight) to Seghe on the south east tip of New Georgia. Visitors should be prepared for the fact that Seghe is a small crushed coral airstrip with only a few small number of government and houses on the edge of the strip. From Seghe, travel by powerboat 18 kilometers across the lagoon to Uepi. Uepi Island Resort is so remote that it may never be discovered by the rest of the world, but it will always be remembered by those lucky few who experience its hospitality and beauty.

Uepi Dive Sites

Uepi Point:
The passage meets The Slot at Uepi Point, where a near vertical reef corner is coated profusely with corals - especially gorgonian fans and colourful spiky soft corals. At 30m a coral peninsula juts out into the deep blue, and the walls plunge into the abyss. This provides the stage for a spectacular procession of pelagics including schooling barracuda, jacks, runner, rays and sharks. At various times and tides the point area becomes a hunting/feeding ground. As a result the underwater action can be very exciting. Many varied & large schools of feeding fish swarm across the reef-face of the deep point and into the shallows. The predators, giant trevally, mackerel, wahoo, rainbow runner, big-eye jacks, dogtooth & smaller tuna, sharks, barracuda and others cruise relentlessly back & forth waiting for pre-occupied inattentive fish to become their next meal. The explosive sounds and sights of large number of fish all taking evasive action at the same time fill the water. Families of garden eels, arrays of colourful gobies and a diverse collection of invertebrate life inhabit the sand patches of the shallows. The coral garden stretching from Uepi Point back to Uepi pier is festooned with anemones, mantis shrimps, coral shrimps, hard and soft corals and of course a myriad of associated reef-fish of all colours and sizes.

Uepi Point Drift:
From Uepi Point back to the Dive Shop pier, allow yourself the courtesy ride of the incoming tide. The passage wall meets the floor at about 50m. Large gorgonians, huge amphora basket sponge, soft coral trees and small hard corals cram the slope. You'll encounter schools of trevally, rainbowrunner, barracuda and other pelagics like mackerel, tuna and sharks, along with an abundance of reef fish including butterfly-fish, basselets, angelfish, unicornfish, surgeons, fusiliers, wrasses, the resident scorpion ‘firefish’ and clown-trigger fish.

Inside Point:
A sloping walled point at the Marovo Lagoon end of the passage, just in front of the resorts dining-room deck. The resident gang of whaler sharks parade past and circle this point when the incoming or outgoing current is running. The adjacent richly coral covered walls have an endless supply of small overhangs and picture caverns to peer into. A small cove in the wall attracts very high concentrations of barracuda. Finish the dive on the reef top to spot large grouper, octopus, molluscs, tubeworms, nudibranchs and holothurians and watch the colourful reef fish.

Uepi Welcome Jetty:
From flashing 'scallops' in a cave directly below the pier, to the base of 'Shark Bombie' in just over 30m. If time allows hunt for a pygmy seahorse, spotlight a colourful cave as you ascend to a 15m wall clustered with fans. Rated as one of the best shore dives yet, you'll see a variety of fish such as mangrove jack, greasy rockcods and stingrays resting on the sand, whilst under continual surveillance by the resident grey whalers, white-tips & black-tip sharks. The jetty always has dense schools of smaller fish & is home to a garden of tridacna ‘giant’ clams. The wall is great for an easy entry night dive with common sightings of sponge decorator crabs, hingeback shrimp, spindle cowries, basket stars, hawkfish, slipper lobsters ...the list goes on!

B O T C H (Bottom of the Channel):
This is a sensational dive directly off the Uepi dive jetty. The dive starts by entering the water at the dive jetty and descending to around 30m on the wall. Then head out into the passage and imagine being confronted with an underwater sand dune that rises about 2m off the bottom! The sand dune runs along the channel, following the current line, to the Deep Bombies at maximum depth of around 40m. Visibility at the bottom is often in excess of 40m. There are many interesting creatures to be found on the sandy bottom including thousands of garden eels waving in the current, sea pens and other sand dwelling species. The 360-degree panorama is spectacular! Often blue-spotted reef-rays and bull rays can be seen gliding over the sand and white-tips sharks ‘sleeping’ as eagle rays & sharks glide overhead. Continue on to 'Shark Bombie’ Then back to the wall and continue drifting, either to Inside Point or Uepi Jetty, direction depending on the current.

The Elbow:
An outside corner of Uepi Island where the wall is covered with luxuriant gorgonian fans. "Hanging out" at Elbow Point gives the diver a chance to see the pelagics of the area. Grey whaler sharks, schools of trevally and barracuda are common. Often sighted are spotted eagle rays, turtles, tuna, kingfish and white tip reef sharks. Seasonally common are the scalloped hammerhead sharks or maybe a great hammerhead. They come with the cold water, usually from June to November, but can appear anytime. Less common are manta-rays & dolphins. Uncommon are sailfish, marlin and even Orcas. After spending some time at the point the rest of the dive is spent exploring the numerous overhangs, cracks, crevices and swim-throughs of the area. "Flashing scallops" or file shells can be seen and easily photographed and it is not unusual to find a cuttlefish along the wall. For those who want to stop and look the walls have many nudibranch, sponges, cleaner stations manned by shrimp, diverse fish-life and a huge array of other invertebrates.

Elbow Caves:
Deep gutters through the reef wall, almost totally enclosed in some sections, make this dive memorable. Columns of sunlight radiate through cathedral like caverns. A large school of diamond-fish disguises the entrance to one cavern, often with barracuda flying through for a meal. Between the gutters, the upper wall overhang forms ledges with abundant fans and dripping webs of sponges. Again, keep one eye seaward for those travelling pelagics, but be sure you don't miss the resting turtle commonly found here.

North Log and South Log:
At times the walls are so steep they overhang the island. North Log is a series of overhang areas with sandy bottoms. The invertebrate life is prolific and the dive is most suited to people who want to spend time looking for small critters. Many goby shrimp combos, twin spot goby, coral shrimps, nudibranch and invertebrates are common. Ghost pipefish, sea moth and exotic nudis have been found. For divers who like to just look at the wall and not go deep, this dive is very beautiful because of the topography, seafans, hard coral and fish life. Cuttlefish are often found and have been recorded laying eggs in this area. Pygmy seahorses colonise specific seafans.

Divers Bay:
Take a tour of the upper reef wall and swim through the various gutters to a lagoonal garden of hard corals. A variety of anemones and associated clown fish, damsels and cleaning shrimps to delight the photographer. Giant tridacna clams and bullnose rays, along with small reef sharks, cod, trout, flutemouths, down to the smaller coral inhabitants like damsels and pullers, nudibranchs, flatworms and other invertebrates. Explore the deeper lagoonal basin, a site for small manta rays. The inner reef has interesting topography with many overhangs, tunnels and caverns to explore. The outer reef area has hard corals, snapper, surgeon and unicorn fish, huge bumphead parrotfish and wrasses. Look for the cleaning stations. The ocean side of the outer reef drops off into endless depths and the possibility of sighting large pelagics, dolphins and turtles exists as for all the wall areas at Uepi.

Point to Point:
This is an advanced dive. It commences on the opposite side of the channel to Uepi Point at Charapoanna Point (see below). Divers descend quickly then navigate across the passage towards Uepi Point. During this dive schools of fish numbering in the thousands may be seen, mingling with sharks & rays. The deep bottom edge of the channel where it enters The Slot is called the “Amphi-theatre”. Outstanding visibility often offers panoramic views in all directions. Divers must be experienced in currents, deep diving, maintaining a planned depth in mid-water & the use of computers. Once across the divers safety stop at Uepi Point or drift back to the dive-shop.

Night Diving:
At Uepi Island Resort we love night dives. For inexperienced divers we enter at the dive-shop. The several jetties house many critters. At night a profusion of echinoderms and other invertebrates as well as crustaceans abound in this area. For more advance night diving Uepi Point is a very exciting site with many, many fish, crayfish, shells, eels, rays shrimps, crabs & more. Inside Point is also handy for a great night dive. The site chosen for a night-dive will depend on the divers experience, weather and diving conditions. It is a good idea to bring your personal dive-torch.

Our premier night diving site is Uepi Point. Enjoy close-up encounters with masses of resting fish, exotic crustaceans, crayfish, basket stars, decorator crabs, shells such as the deadly Conus Geographus, flounder & crocodilefish, turtles.

Wreck Dives
The Wickham wrecks are back!
WWII Ship Wrecks
These wreck dives are located at Wickham Harbour approx 50 km South West of Uepi Island Resort, a boat trip of around 75 - 90 minutes. Note that the taking of souvenirs from any WWII site above or below water is illegal & there are severe penalties. These dives can potentially be dived as inexperienced, advanced or even very advanced dives, so divers will be expected to dive within their qualifications and experience.

Wickham Harbour (no actual harbour facilities, just the name) is actually the southern entrance to Marovo Lagoon from the Coral Sea. Exposed to a moderate amount to southern swells, the outer reaches of Wickham can be affected by rough seas, so there may be days when we do not offer this excursion.
Because these sites are custom sites they may be withdrawn at any time.

"AZUSA MARU"
Japanese Freighter used in WWII, wrecked in 1942. It is 540 tons and is up to 50 metres long. Lying in approx 30 - 40m of water sitting upright in good condition with the deck starting at about 32m and the bottom of the holds in about 38m, with the stern in about 40m.
The wreck has two main cargo holds one of which holds a large amount of various calibre machine-gun ammunition, mortars, field artillery shells, unopened boxes, bicycle tires and various unknown articles. The other hold contains coal, 44 gallon drums, cables etc. The forward storage lockers
contain kerosene lanterns, mantles, floodlights, sake bottles, colognes, a shaving kit, beer bottles and various other items. The engine room can be seen from the rear cargo hold and above the gangway at the rear of the boat. The engines, gauges, dials and various other equipment is still intact and can be easily seen in this area. Crockery, glassware and other items have been found throughout the various cabins at the rear of the ship. The deck superstructure consists of winches, spare anchors, the main mast (complete with a large brass masthead lantern) and other scattered debris. Fish abound around the wreck including mangrove jack, cod, schooling arracuda and trevally. The wreck is covered in corals including gorgonian fans and black coral. This wreck is appealing to both experienced wreck divers and reef divers looking for something different.
There are areas which can be penetrated by the more experienced wreck diver such as the engine room and front storage locker, however an great overview of the ship can be obtained by encircling the wreck, swimming through the ammunition cargo holds and over the decks taking in the superstructure.

"IWAMI MARU"
A Japanese freighter used in WW11. It is 775 tons and estimated up to 55 metres long. It was sunk 26th December 1942. It is upright and in good condition although the stern has been subject to an explosion and is moderately damaged. The wreck was sunk near a Japanese base at Wickham harbour in 1942. She lays upright in 38m of water with the bow slightly raised. The masthead is at about 15m and the top of the superstructure about 28m. The ship is believed to have been skip bombed: this is evident through holes in the starboard side, just above the water line near the bow. The ship has two cargo holds, one large hold towards the front of the ship and one smaller one amidships. The forward hold contains two large artillery pieces each approximately 5m long. They lay on their sides and the wheels, barrels and sighting apparatus are all visible. 44 gallon drums can also be found in the hold. This cargo was possibly bound for the head base at Guadalcanal but the position of the vessel suggests that it may have been nosed into the reef to unload stores for the nearby land-base holding approximately 300 troops. Alternatively once hit it may have been deliberately driven onto the reef in close proximity to the military base.
A main feature of this wreck is the easily accessible engine room, various deck equipment including anchors & winches. Marine life is reasonably abundant with a resident and very curious school
of batfish.

Unidentified Wreck:
Located about 1 km from the other two wrecks this wreck sits upright in 40m. There is a gun mounted on the foredeck but the holds are barren having been emptied by salvagers. The stern of the vessel has been blown by explosives. But this wreck often has very good visibility. Very large fish such as giant trevally & huge cod live in the open superstructure & huge schools of fish swarm over it. This makes it a very popular dive for photographers. Various opinions as to the origin & nationality of this vessel have been offered ranging from Japanese freighter to USA troop carrier.

Another Unidentified wreck:
The fourth wreck, the latest addition, is the largest and shallowest (15m to 27m) with the deck at 15m, making it the obvious last dive. It is upright and in good condition. It also has very prolific fish life, a wheeled artillery piece on the bow and four cargo holds. Great for photos.

 

SEA KAYAKING AT UEPI:
Kayak Solomons offers Uepi Resort guests the opportunity to experience kayaking at its best.  No previous experience required.

The kayaks are easy to manage and you will be fully instructed in their use before your trip. Choose from the different trips offered and speak with the Dive Instructor or Uepi Managers to finalise details. All trips are guided.

Dawn Paddle
 Starting as the sun rises, circumnavigate either Uepi or Charapoana Islands. This is a wonderful time of the day to interact with nature, with a real possibility of dolphin pods, flying fish & turtles being sighted.
 Orientation 1 1/2 hours (evening prior to trip). Paddle 1 1/2 hours.
 This trip can also be done at other times of the day if dawn is not suitable.

Chachole River
 Situated on Vangunu Island, this river is a beautiful place to visit for a number of reasons. It's leafy coolness surrounds you and the bird life is prolific, especially kingfishers with their exotic colours flitting through the dappled sunlight. Occasional small rapid areas give the kayaker an opportunity to experience a safe but exciting ride. The people of Michi village use some of the river banks for subsistence farming. Kayakers have the opportunity to meet some of these people and learn about their culture. Can be done as either a half day or full day trip.

Rarusu Keoro
 Kayak to Raruso Keoro, a sandy beach lining the fringing lagoon of an untouched barrier reef island. Snorkel the shallow adjacent coral gardens or venture to the deep water reef edge.

The availability of trips is subject to weather conditions and local factors. If these trips are not available, substitute trips will be offered.
 

JUNGLE TRAILS:
The island itself is covered in rainforest right down to the high water mark. There is a system of well prepared and mapped out walking trails which are sign posted at strategic points. Maps are available at the resort.
 

PHOTOGRAPHY:
The Marovo Lagoon and Uepi are a photographers delight. A camera is a must. Subjects abound ... hand feed the coral fish, tropical sunsets, palm trees and white beaches, tropical rainforests.
 

COCONUT CRAB WALK:
The baits are set ... and we walk into the jungle by torchlight to see a threatened species. You will be intrigued by these large and spectacular creatures.